Libby Hill site to get new life

Sep. 26, 2013 @ 07:03 PM

When it comes to High Point’s restaurant scene, brothers Tony and Ronnie Stevens have never been afraid to try something new.
The duo has owned and cooked for a slew of eateries in their hometown and beyond, and their latest effort continues their work as trendsetters.
They are in the process of renovating the former Libby Hill Seafood at 2004 N. Main St., which closed in April, into Cast Iron Kitchen, which they are billing as High Point’s first farm-to-table restaurant, serving food directly from farms.
“That’s what seems to be big right now,” said Tony Stevens, whose past restaurants include Grappa Grille and Barracuda Bistro. “It reminded me of cooking for Jimmy Noble in 1989 when I first started. That’s what he was doing. He was growing his own vegetables in his garden. We would pick them and cook them. We were doing farm-to-table 20 years ago, and that’s just not what it was called.”
Ronnie Stevens is executive chef of the new restaurant, which the brothers hope to have open in time for High Point Market next month. His previous local ventures include Pomodoro Restaurant in the space where the Golden B Restaurant is now.
Most recently, he was chef at a restaurant on the island of Nantucket, Mass.
“My brother called me and said, ‘I found us a restaurant. It’s time we did something together,’” said Ronnie Stevens. “I’ve had four of my own restaurants. He’s had four or five of his own. This is the first one we’ve done together.”
Cast Iron Kitchen will emphasize “Southern inspirational cuisine” in a casual atmosphere, Tony Stevens said, with small-plate appetizers ranging from $3 to $11 and large plates $12 to $16. The plan is to serve dinner only at this point, as well as Sunday brunch.
Ronnie Stevens showcased some of his offerings on Thursday, including deviled eggs cooked in sweet tea and a chicken-and-waffles dish made with sweet potatoes and honey.
“I’d rather call myself a Southern fusion restaurant than a farm-to-table, but we are going to use the freshest available product — nothing frozen,” he said.
Tony Stevens said 80 percent of the restaurant’s menu will be sourced from farms in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The farm-to-table concept emphasizes as direct a relationship as possible between a farm and a restaurant. He said they are looking at using FreshPoint, a food service distributor of fresh produce.
“They go to farms and say, ‘We don’t want the tomatoes that are hybridly grown to last in a truck for 22 hours. We want the tomatoes that are going to be rotten in three days,’” he said.
Ronnie Stevens said embracing the concept requires a lot of planning.
“Our menu changes with the season. We’ve got to do our homework a month ahead of time so we know this (food) is going out or this is going out — we’re not going to be able to get this locally,” he said. “It will be a learning experience for me, really going back to the roots of cooking.”
Catering, especially for the furniture market, also is a major goal of the brothers.
“I sold my restaurants here in High Point, because the furniture market started going to Vegas. I lost $120,000 worth of catering business one market,” Ronnie Stevens said. “Now the market’s coming back. I see a big expansion coming back here.”